Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week's address, the President repeated his call for Republicans in the United States Senate to give Chief Judge Merrick Garland a fair hearing and a vote":

The Wires

The Ledes

Friday, April 29, 2016.

** New York: "An ISIS-linked hacking group has posted a hit list that includes the names of thousands of New Yorkers. The list, released by the ISIS-related group Caliphate Cyber United, reportedly includes as many as 3,600 names, some of whom are employees at the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, but many of whom are average residents. Experts speculate that the list is being used as a scare tactic and that there’s no immediate threat." -- CW

NBC News: "A man infected with Zika virus in Puerto Rico has died from complications of the infection, health officials said Friday.... It's the first death in the United States from Zika virus." -- CW

Washington Post: "North Korea has sentenced a former Virginia man to 10 years in prison with hard labor for subversion, its official news agency said Friday, in the latest case involving an American being detained by Kim Jong Un’s regime." -- CW

Public Service Announcement

New York Times: "Taking a stance sharply at odds with most American public health officials, a major British medical organization urged smokers to switch to electronic cigarettes, saying they are the best hope in generations for people addicted to tobacco cigarettes to quit. The recommendation, laid out in a report published Thursday by the Royal College of Physicians, summarizes the growing body of science on e-cigarettes and finds that their benefits far outweigh the potential harms." -- CW

Washington Post: "More than a third of advanced-melanoma patients who received one of the new immunotherapy drugs in an early trial are alive five years after starting treatment -- double the survival rate typical of the disease, according to a new study."

Zoe Schlanger of Newsweek: "If you are eating fast food, you're probably also eating phthalates,... a class of chemicals that have been linked to everything from ADHD to breast cancer, ...[which] are common in food packaging, drink containers, the tubing used to transport dairy and the equipment used to process fast food." --LT

New York Times: "... a nearly 47,000-word journalistic series [by Walt Whitman] called 'Manly Health and Training,' were lost for more than 150 years, buried in an obscure newspaper that survived only in a handful of libraries. The series was uncovered last summer by a graduate student, who came across a fleeting reference to it in a digitized newspaper database and then tracked down the full text on microfilm.Now, Whitman’s self-help-guide-meets-democratic-manifesto is being published online in its entirety by a scholarly journal, in what some experts are calling the biggest new Whitman discovery in decades."

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

This is for safari:

... Via the New Yorker.

Washington Post: "Late last week, Comcast announced a new program that allows makers of smart TVs and other Internet-based video services to have full access to your cable programming without the need for a set-top box.  Instead, the content will flow directly to the third-party device as an app, including all the channels and program guide. The Xfinity TV Partner Program will initially be offered on new smart TVs from Samsung, as well as Roku streaming boxes.  But the program, built on open Internet-based standards including HTML5, is now open to other device manufacturers to adopt. As video services move from hardware to software, the future of the traditional set-top box looks increasingly grim. With this announcement, Comcast customers may soon eliminate the need for an extra device, potentially saving hundreds of dollars in fees."

BBC: "Dame Judi Dench and David Tennant have joined other stars at a gala marking 400 years since Shakespeare's death. Saturday's Shakespeare Live show in the playwright's birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon included play scene performances, dance and music." Then this:

New York Times: "The Pulitzers are in their centennial year, and the winners announced by Columbia University reflected in part the changes sweeping the media landscape." Here's the full list of the prize winners, via the New York Times.

CW: The AP produced this video in January 2015, but I just came across it:

New York Times: "James Levine, who transformed the Metropolitan Opera during four decades as its music director but has suffered from poor health in recent years, will step down from his post after this season to become music director emeritus, the company announced Thursday."

Politico: "Gabriel Snyder, editor in chief of The New Republic for the past 17 months, is leaving the magazine in the wake of its sale to Win McCormack.... The masthead change marks the first big move since McCormack, a publisher, Democratic booster and editor in chief of a literary journal called Tin House, bought TNR from Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes in February after Hughes was unsuccessful at turning around the money-losing magazine’s business during his four years of stewardship."

The Great Octopus Escape. Guardian: "An octopus has made a brazen escape from the national aquarium in New Zealand by breaking out of its tank, slithering down a 50-metre drainpipe and disappearing into the sea. In scenes reminiscent of Finding Nemo, Inky – a common New Zealand octopus – made his dash for freedom after the lid of his tank was accidentally left slightly ajar. Staff believe that in the middle of the night, while the aquarium was deserted, Inky clambered to the top of his glass enclosure, down the side of the tank and travelled across the floor of the aquarium."

... Charles Pierce: "One of the best biographies I've ever read was Scott Berg's brilliant, National Book Award-winning account of the life of Maxwell Perkins, the editor at Scribner's who was responsible for bringing out the best work in Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Ring Lardner, and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.... I'm going to be first in line to see [the film "Genius."] OK, so there won't be a line, but I'll be there nonetheless."

Michael Cavna of the Washington Post on the artistry in the film "All the President's Men."The real Woodward & Bernstein weigh in.

"You think old people are weirdos but then you understand that they don't see you and they can't hear you." Reuters: "The Genworth Aging Experience is a traveling show created by Genworth Financial Inc., an insurance company, in partnership with Applied Minds, a design and engineering company, that allows museum visitors to feel first-hand the effects of aging...[with the goal of building] empathy and awareness of the challenges elderly people face in everyday situations." -- LT note: this world could always use a little more empathy.

Washington Post: An archivist found the original patent for the Wright brothers' "Flying Machine" "in a special records storage cave in Lenexa, Kan., where it was sent at some point after it vanished around 1980." Somebody in the National Archives apparently had misfiled it.

New York Times: "A thousand years after the Vikings braved the icy seas from Greenland to the New World in search of timber and plunder, satellite technology has found intriguing evidence of a long-elusive prize in archaeology — a second Norse settlement in North America, further south than ever known. The new Canadian site, with telltale signs of iron-working, was discovered last summer after infrared images from 400 miles in space showed possible man-made shapes under discolored vegetation. The site is on the southwest coast of Newfoundland, about 300 miles south of L’Anse aux Meadows, the first and so far only confirmed Viking settlement in North America, discovered in 1960."

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

Constant Comments

Anyone with a cheap computer can become a columnist or a pundit. -- Dennis Ryerson, Editor, Indianapolis Star

About Me: I have a cheap computer.
-- Constant Weader

Follow CONSTANTWEADER on Twitter... for breaking news. I update several times a day & tweet only the big deals.

Wednesday
Dec042013

The Commentariat -- Dec. 5, 2013

Josh Eidelson of Salon: "Thousands of fast food workers plan to walk off the job in 100 U.S. cities today, a major escalation in labor's strongest-ever challenge to an industry that's become ever more central to the present and future of U.S. work." ...

... Mother Jones writers put together charts & graphs to show why fast-food & other low-wage workers need raises. ...

... Jim Kuhnhenn of the AP: "President Barack Obama prodded Congress to raise wages and secure the social safety net as he issued an overarching appeal Wednesday to correct economic inequalities that he said make it harder for a child to escape poverty. 'That should offend all of us,' he declared. 'We are a better country than this.' Focusing on the pocketbook issues that Americans consistently rank as a top concern, Obama argued that the dream of upward economic mobility is breaking down and that the growing income gap is a 'defining challenge of our time.'" CW: Video of the speech is at the top of yesterday's Commentariat. Elections matter. Think what kind of speeches Mr. Forty-Seven Percent would give about inequality. ...

... New York Times Editors: "The emphasis on cutting taxes and spending that began in the Reagan years is a direct cause of economic insecurity now. It has led, for example, to education cuts that have harmed children in low-income school districts. Reversing those decisions can still have an enormous impact. Mr. Obama did not reveal a sheaf of new ideas in his speech. But he did remind listeners of the many good ideas he has proposed about inequality over the years, most of which have been blocked by Republican opposition." ...

... Greg Sargent: "... experts who see inequality as one of the most urgent moral, political and economic long term challenges facing the country will see it as one of the most important speeches of the Obama presidency -- more ambitious than his similar 2011 speech in Kansas." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "It's a symptom of all sorts of political and media dysfunction that a major presidential speech on one of the overriding topics of the day is being treated as a 'distraction' or an effort to 'change the subject' from obsession over the president's polling numbers or the likely-to-be-forgotten travails of HealthCare.gov." CW: Thanks, Ed. This lazy journalistic practice has been bugging me, too. ...

You owe it to the American people to tell us what you are for, not just what you're against. -- President Obama, to Republicans ...

... Washington Post conservative columnist Kathleen Parker is no fan of President Obama's -- she compares him to Baghdad Bob who reported all was well as bombs exploded in the background -- but she opines that Obama's positive messages about healthcare reform sure beat Republican never-ending, solution-free negativity. ...

... Luke Johnson of the Huffington Post: "A Monday op-ed by the centrist think tank Third Way railing against economic populism has sparked a liberal counterattack, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) calling on big banks to disclose their financial contributions to think tanks and progressive groups calling on Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Penn.), who is running for governor, to drop her affiliation with the group." CW: See yesterday's Commentariat for just how "centrist" the Third Way is.

Steve Holland of Reuters: "More people signed up on the government's new health insurance website on the first two days of December than in the entire first month of the launch of President Barack Obama's healthcare reform, sources familiar with the numbers said on Wednesday. The sources said about 29,000 people enrolled on Sunday and Monday, surpassing nearly 27,000 for all of October when the opening of the HealthCare.gov website was beset by glitches that led to a public apology by the president and a retooling of the portal." ...

... Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic: "... the comparison [of Healthcare.gov] to commercial websites should come with two very important caveats. One is an acknowledgment of the huge, fundamental difference between what the two types of systems must do.... [Commercial sites are] engaging consumers, producers and retailers in a series of relatively straightforward transactions ... using technology that, for the most part, has been around for a long time. Healthcare.gov, by contrast, must perform a whole series of complex transactions.... The second caveat: ... we should also compare [Healthcare.gov] to the process of buying health insurance before Obamacare came along.... If healthcare.gov's consumer interface isn't yet living up to the standards of Amazon, it's already surpassed the standards of buying insurance before the Obamacare came along. That's progress."

... Jeffrey Jones of Gallup: "Most Americans who currently lack insurance say they are likely to get it for next year, as required by the 2010 Affordable Care Act.... But a substantial minority, currently 28%, say they are more likely to pay the government fine imposed for not having insurance. The percentage planning to pay the fine has changed little in the last month.... The biggest differences appear by party identification -- 45% of uninsured Republicans plan to pay the fine, compared with 31% of independents and 15% of Democrats."CW: There's your evidence that the GOP sabotage program is working, & a certain number of vulnerable yahoos will get sick & die because of it. ...

White House photo.... CW: Kevin Drum has my back (see December 3 Comments in which I appear as "a dickhead, female version"): "Anyone who's worked in or around government for more than a few years knows that big IT projects are black holes. They're always late. They never work. And surprisingly often, they're epic catastrophes, projects so screwed up they literally have to be completely abandoned after years of work.... Like it or not, this means that everyone should have known that the website was a ... highly likely point of failure. You don't need to have a background in IT to know that, just a background in watching projects like these over the years. And since the website was obviously so central to the overall success of Obamacare, that means it should have gotten lots of presidential mindshare.... So yeah, this is a huge black mark on Obama." ...

... AND this somber note from Ed Kilgore: "... if the GOP wins back the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016, the ACA will almost certainly be repealed (as it would have been, in large part, had Republicans won the Senate and the White House last year)." ...

... Your Illness, Your Fault. Jim Galloway & Daniel Malloy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: In a speech before a Republican women's group, Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens (RTP) said that people with pre-existing health conditions were "the exact same thing" as drivers who caused auto accidents.... Hudgens already earned national attention for his pledge to do 'everything in our power to be an obstructionist' against the law known as Obamacare." CW: Evidently Hudgens' pre-existing condition is OCDS -- ObamaCare Derangement Syndrome. ...

... Sy Mukherjee of Think Progress: "Consumer Watchdog singled [Hudgens] out in a 2011 report on insurance commissioners' relationships with the industry they regulate. It found that private insurers were Hudgens' top supporters for his 2010 race, donating just under $150,000 to his campaign."

** "Contempt for Congress." Jeff Shesol in the New Yorker: “'It is not our job,' [Chief Justice John] Roberts wrote in his haughtiest passage, 'to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.' But in the name of restraining Congress, his court is doing exactly that: second-guessing regulation of the health-insurance market (the A.C.A. opinion, which crippled Medicaid expansion), overriding ninety-eight senators' judgment that federal protection of the right to vote is still required (Shelby County), and perceiving, despite every expression of congressional intent, only naked self-interest behind campaign-finance reform (Citizens United and its progeny, McCutcheon v. F.E.C., argued in October)."

We Know Where You Are & Who's with You. Barton Gellman & Ashkan Soltani of the Washington Post: "The National Security Agency is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world, according to top-secret documents and interviews with U.S. intelligence officials, enabling the agency to track the movements of individuals -- and map their relationships -- in ways that would have been previously unimaginable. The records feed a vast database that stores information about the locations of at least hundreds of millions of devices, according to the officials and the documents, which were provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. New projects created to analyze that data have provided the intelligence community with what amounts to a mass surveillance tool. The NSA does not target Americans' location data by design, but the agency acquires a substantial amount of information on the whereabouts of domestic cellphones 'incidentally,' a legal term that connotes a foreseeable but not deliberate result." A graph of "how the NSA is tracking people right now" is here. An overview video is here. Soltani discusses how the NSA collects cellphone locational info in this video. ...

... Nicole Perlroth & Vindu Goel of the New York Times: "In the era of Edward J. Snowden..., [Internet] companies are competing to show users how well their data is protected from prying eyes, with billions of dollars in revenue hanging in the balance. On Thursday, Microsoft will be the latest technology company to announce plans to shield its services from outside surveillance. It is in the process of adding state-of-the-art encryption features to various consumer services and internally at its data centers."

Peter Eavis of the New York Times: "Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew will assert on Thursday that the Obama administration's vast overhaul of the financial system is close to accomplishing its goal of shielding society from the dangers posed by giant banks. In a broad policy speech intended to signal the administration's views on financial regulations, Mr. Lew will also make it clear that more measures may be needed to strengthen the global system. In comments that will most likely upset foreign governments, he will call on overseas regulators to make their rules tougher."

Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post: "Despite ... violations and poor performance, Navy contracting officials kept giving the contractor [Glenn Defense Marine Asia] more lucrative business to resupply ships and submarines in the [Southeast Asia] region.... Today, Glenn Defense Marine and its president, Leonard Glenn Francis, are principal characters in one of the biggest contracting fraud investigations in the Navy's 238-year history.... In addition to salacious evidence of sailors selling secrets for sex, cash and other favors, the investigation has pinpointed systematic weaknesses in the Navy's worldwide contracting bureaucracy."

Dana Milbank gets booted from ALEC "policy summit" meetings in Washington D.C., where corporations tell state legislators what to do. The business-funded, right-wing "research" organization has fallen on hard financial times, partly thanks to public exposure it received for writing stand-your-ground laws. Here's the Guardian article, by Ed Pilkington, which Milbank mentions. ...

... Suzanne Goldenberg & Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: ALEC "is mobilising to penalise homeowners who install their own solar panels -- casting them as 'freeriders' -- in a sweeping new offensive against renewable energy.... Over the coming year, the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) will promote legislation with goals ranging from penalising individual homeowners and weakening state clean energy regulations, to blocking the Environmental Protection Agency, which is Barack Obama's main channel for climate action." CW: This effort really exposes what ruthless, despicable people the Kochs, et al., are. There is absolutely no public policy upside to this & obvious, giant downsides; the purpose is to keep the country in the grips of the fossil fuel barons.

Nuke 'Em! Ben Armbruster of Think Progress: Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) "said on Wednesday that if the United States ends up using military force against Iran's nuclear program, it should do so with nuclear weapons." ...

The preventative, first-use of nuclear weapons against Iran would have a devastating impact on US national security and dismember US power and standing in the world. That a senior Republican member of the House Armed Services Committee is even suggesting such a possible course of action is the height of reckless irresponsibility and so far out of bounds it is astonishing. -- Kingston Reif of the Center for Arms Control ...

... Mark Thompson of Time casts Hunter as Barry Goldwater 2.0.

Style over Substance. John Bresnahan & Anna Palmer of Politico: "The National Republican Congressional Committee wants to make sure there are no Todd Akin-style gaffes next year, so it's meeting with top aides of sitting Republicans to teach them what to say -- or not to say -- on the trail, especially when their boss is running against a woman. Speaker John Boehner's ...top aides met recently with Republican staff to discuss how lawmakers should talk to female constituents. 'Let me put it this way, some of these guys have a lot to learn,' said a Republican staffer who attended the session in Boehner's office."

** Jon Stewart on the War on Christmas -- an excellent piece:

... Gail Collins: Christmas warriors are demanding that retailers make "more mentions of the birth of the Savior while promoting sweaters for the whole family." ...

... CW: If you want to check out that Fox "News" War on Christmas map which Collins highlights, it's here. AND it's high-tech interactive! Click on the icon pointing to Wyoming & you'll learn that Breitbart reports that Jackson has limited its town square holiday displays to a mere 14-day period. Pretty horrifying. I suspect next year's big holiday function will be a bible-burning bonfire on the Jackson town square followed by a marathon reading of Mao's Little Red Book.

Presidential Race 2016

Noah Bierman of the Boston Globe: "Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose political future has been the subject of intense speculation, pledged Wednesday that she would not run for president in 2016, her most ironclad statement yet. 'I pledge to serve out my term,' which ends in January 2019, Warren said, when pressed during a news conference in Boston with Mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh."

News Ledes

New York Times: New York City "Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio on Thursday morning named William J. Bratton to lead the New York Police Department."

New York Times: "Sister Mary Nerney, a Roman Catholic nun who was a nationally known advocate for female convicts, in particular those who were survivors of domestic violence, died on Nov. 27 in Manhattan. She was 75."

Tuesday
Dec032013

The Commentariat -- Dec. 4, 2013

The President delivered a major speech this morning on his economic vision:

... Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: "President Obama leaves the White House on Wednesday for one of the capital's most struggling neighborhoods to talk about the economy, not simply to divert attention from his troubled Affordable Care Act but to explain how that law, for all of its flaws, fits into his vision for Americans' economic security and upward mobility. It is a vision of partnership between government and citizens that Mr. Obama has described since he was a state senator in Illinois, and it draws on the legacies of three Republican presidents -- Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower." ...

... Michael O'Brien of NBC News: "President Barack Obama said his signature health care reform law is going nowhere as long as he's in office, and he'll spend the remainder of his presidency fighting to make it work if necessary":

 

... Michael Shear of the New York Times: " White House officials ... are under mounting pressure from Democrats and close allies to hold senior-level people accountable for the botched rollout of President Obama's signature domestic achievement and to determine who should be fired.... The possible targets include Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary; Marilyn Tavenner, the head of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services; Mike Hash, the head of the health and human services health reform office; Michelle Snyder, the chief operating officer at Medicaid and Medicare; Henry Chao, the chief digital architect for the website; Jeanne Lambrew, the head of health care policy inside the White House; David Simas, a key adviser involved in the rollout; and Todd Park, the president's top adviser on technology issues.... Robert Gibbs, a former press secretary for Mr. Obama, said Tuesday what many Democrats were saying privately: Someone has to go." ...

... Jason Cherkis & Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post on why ObamaCare is going to work: "With the website now quasi-functional, there are good reasons to believe that the Affordable Care Act will catch on. Quite simply, there are tens of millions of uninsured people who want health insurance, a law in place to help them obtain it, and advocates on the ground making sure they know how to do it. For on-the-ground organizations, Obamacare represents a once-in-a-generation organizing opportunity. By signing someone up for health insurance, they are delivering a tangible benefit, something that person will value for years to come, and winning loyalty along the way. Nonprofits, as well as mayors and governors, have an intense incentive to make Obamacare work." ...

     ... CW: What Cherkis & Grim don't take into account is that for most people, the "tangible benefit" will seem to be going to the health insurance industry. Yes, the individuals may be glad to have health insurance, but they're also glad they have electricity. That doesn't mean they're thrilled about paying the monthly bills for these services. Except for people who could not otherwise obtain insurance that met their healthcare needs, I don't think most people will see the ACA as a "benefit." ...

... Kevin Drum: "Aside from the tea partiers who object on the usual abstract grounds that Obamacare is a liberty-crushing Stalinesque takeover of the medical industry, it's going to be hard to gin up a huge amount of opposition. And that's doubly true since, as Sargent says, the Republican Party will have no credible alternative for a benefit that lots of people will already be getting." ...

... Au contraire, says Paul Krugman: Right-wing outrage at ObamaCare is only going to get worse as Healthcare.gov gets better. "On both the healthcare and inflation fronts, what you have to conclude is that there are a large number of people who find reality -- the reality that governments are actually pretty good at providing health insurance, that fiat money can be a useful tool of economic management rather than the road to socialist disaster -- just unacceptable. I think that in both cases it has to do with the underlying desire to see market outcomes as moral imperatives. And I suppose there have always been such people out there. What's new is that these days they control one of our two major political parties." ...

     ... CW: My guess is that Krugman is right & Drum is wrong. Drum is operating on the assumption that voters are rational. Remember the "death panels"? There was no such thing (the proposed ACA bill required coverage for end-of-life counseling), but we are still stuck with the Republican Congress & Republican state legislatures which we got in part because of that hoax. And Sarah Palin is still claiming "the death panels are in there," even tho Democrats removed the requirement to cover end-of-life counseling in respose to the hoax. ...

... The Ghost of Scott Brown Haunts ObamaCare. Alec MacGillis of the New Republic explains the numerous lawsuits challenging the tax subsidy that makes the Affordable Care Act, um, affordable. MacGillis describes the arguments made Tuesday in one of the cases. Thanks to P. D. Pepe for the link. ...

     ... CW: These suits don't just challenge the law on an unjustified premise, IMHO. They are flat-out mean-spirited. The intent is to disallow tax subsidies to people who live in states whose Republican leaders haven't set up exchanges &/or accepted the Medicaid expansion. Residents of those states would be hit with a double-whammy: no Medicaid/no subsidy. I suppose if the plaintiffs are successful, there is the possibility of a silver lining: the effect might be to force those states to get with the program, as tens of thousands of their residents -- some of them "influential" -- would demand the subsidies. ...

... All Hat. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: Speaker John "Boehner and other top Republicans held a news conference at which they said they espoused a 'patient-driven' approach to health care rather than Obamacare.... John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday declined to commit to allowing a vote on a GOP-drafted health-care plan next year." ...

     ... CW: Really, all Boehner thinks it necessary for Congress to do about securing health insurance to Americans is to stand in the well of the House & yell --

... Trudy Lieberman of the Columbia Journalism Review in Politico Magazine: It wasn't just President Obama who had no idea Healthcare.gov wasn't going to work. The media made no effort to find out, either. Most journalists also were unaware that millions of Americans would lose their current policies. But, as crack journalist Chuck Todd opined, educating the public is not the media's job.

Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post: "With the jobless rate hovering just over 7 percent, congressional Republicans said Tuesday that they are ready to let emergency unemployment benefits lapse on Dec. 31, immediately cutting off checks to more than a million recipients." CW: I gather from the story, which is about a pending budget deal, that cutting of emergency benefits is part of Paul Ryan's initiative to encourage the unemployed to raise themselves up by their own damned bootstraps. Nice start to his Pope Francis imitation. ...

... Ryan's Dilemma. Joan Walsh of Salon: "TPM and Politico both report that Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray are within sight of [a mini-budget] deal, though Politico cautions 'there remains a distinct possibility that the effort will flounder, as so many budget deals have.... But if Ryan is serious about running for president in 2016, and there are early signs he is, it's hard to imagine him inking any kind of deal to restore social-program sequester cuts and increase government fees in a climate where the Tea Party still holds disproportionate power in the nominating process.... Would Ryan risk a presidential bid to rescue the country from another government shutdown? I've never seen him stand up to that kind of ideological pressure from the right, but there could be a first time."

Richard Cowan of Reuters: "U.S. immigration reform supporters, reeling from their failure to get legislation enacted this year, saw a new ray of hope on Tuesday as House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner announced he had hired a long-time immigration specialist to advise him." ...

... Emmarie Heutteman & Julia Preston of the New York Times: "A longtime labor leader and two other advocates of an immigration overhaul ended their water-only fasts on Tuesday in a tent on the National Mall, the 22nd day of an effort to press the House to take up legislation on the issue. In a ceremony choreographed to evoke the civil rights and farmworker movements of the 1960s, the labor leader, Eliseo Medina, 67, took a bite of bread and a sip of apple juice. Looking tired, Mr. Medina did not speak during the event. Afterward, he rose and walked away, leaning on the arm of another advocate."

The GOP's Latest Strategy -- Impeachment! Dana Milbank: "... on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary met to consider the impeachment of Barack Hussein Obama. They didn't use that word, of course. Republican leaders frown on such labeling because it makes the House majority look, well, crazy.... They've proposed [impeachment] as the remedy to just about every dispute or political disagreement...."

Left-wing blogs are the mirror image [of the Tea Party]. They just have less credibility and less clout. -- Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)

Thanks for your support, Chuck. -- Constant Weader

Chuck Schumer wants us to stop picking on Wall Street.... It seems odd that Schumer is trying to start an internecine war at this very moment, particularly with a tough 2014 up ahead. And as the number three Democrat in the Senate, his words carry outsized weight. But it's clear that the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party is feeling the heat from its resurgent populist wing: the Warrens, Baldwins, Browns and Merkleys. -- Markos Moulitsas ...

... Hunter of Daily Kos: "The obsessive centrists of the punditverse were abuzz [Tuesday] with praise for supposed centrist Democratic organization Third Way and their grumbling op-ed condemnation of Democratic liberal populism in abstract and 'economic populists' like Sen. Elizabeth Warren in particular. But why would the Third Way, a very reasonable and centrist organization that just wants both parties to get along and agree to cut Social Security, Medicare, and other social programs be so very worked up about Elizabeth Warren, Wall Street reform, and the mere thought of breaking up large banks? ... Oh, I see":

... Markos Moulitsas: "Hmmm, so far [Tuesday] we've seen that Third Way op-ed in the Wall Street Journal and Sen. Chuck Schumer's comparing us to the teabaggers. Then there is DLC dinosaur Al From with a new book and rhetorical embrace of Hillary Clinton, unreconstructed racist Richard Cohen's blasting of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Fox News 'Democrats' Doug Schoen and Pat Caddell in Politico are back for another stab at that whole 'radical center' nonsense.... It's a coordinated counterattack by Wall Street Democrats spooked by the party's embrace of politicians like Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Tammy Baldwin and Jeff Merkley."

Based on academic research, Tom Edsall argues that there aren't many American voters who are true moderates, so "the dream of a moderate revolt against the parties will remain out of reach, exposed as an illusion." ...

     ... CW: I'd have to look at the actual research (which is too much trouble because one has to register to access it) to see how the researchers define each of their categories, but most liberals would agree that the guy in the White House (who likes Ike, as Jackie Calmes notes in the NYT story linked above) & most elected Democrats are moderates, not liberals. So we already have a centrist president & Senate. The moderate revolt Edsall says can't happen is in fact well-represented within the government now.

Nick Hopkins & Matthew Taylor of the Guardian: "The Guardian has come under concerted pressure and intimidation designed to stop it from publishing stories of huge public interest that have revealed the 'staggering' scale of Britain's and America's secret surveillance programmes, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper has said. Giving evidence to a parliamentary committee about stories based on the National Security Agency leaks from the whistleblower Edward Snowden, Alan Rusbridger said the Guardian 'would not be put off by intimidation, but nor are we going to behave recklessly'." ...

... Ravi Somaiya of the New York Times: "As [Rusbridger] testified before a Parliamentary committee on national security, he faced aggressive questioning from lawmakers, particularly those of the ruling Conservative Party. Some asserted that The Guardian had handled the material irresponsibly, putting it at risk of interception by hostile governments and others. Others said the paper had jeopardized national security.... After Mr. Rusbridger's testimony, a senior British police officer, Cressida Dick, refused to rule out prosecutions as part of an investigation into the matter."

Maureen Dowd is robophobic. "Experts say there may be as many as 30,000 unmanned private and government drones flying in this country by 2020, ratcheting drones into a $90 billion industry, generating 100,000 jobs.... Of course, for the robophopic, there is already a way to get goods almost immediately: Go to the store." ...

... Alistair Barr & Elizabeth Weise of USA Today: "The drone economy is booming abroad and an underground version is growing fast in the U.S. The FAA plans to draw up regulations by 2015, but that's not quick enough, according to drone entrepreneurs."

Annie Gowen of the Washington Post: "Once a town whose bright stars were government leaders, the nation's capital has become a moneyed metropolis where entrepreneurs whose wealth is often amassed by doing business with the government are the new elite." Includes a slide show of Hickory Hill, the Robert Kennedy family's former home in McLean, Virginia, which is now owned by a tech entrepreneur. The entrepreneur, Alan J. Dabbiere, who purchased the property for $8.2 million, is gutting the place.

Moving on to less important matters, Joe Biden is on a mission to prevent World War III. Mark Landler of the New York Times: "Shuttling from one feuding neighbor to the other, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. arrived [in Beijing] from Tokyo on Wednesday to appeal to China's leaders to show restraint in policing a new air defense zone in the East China Sea that has ignited tensions with Japan."

Gubernatorial Races

Greg Sargent: "Democrats are currently using a major pillar of the health law -- the Medicaid expansion -- as a weapon against Republican Governors in multiple 2014 races. Many of these Governors opted out of the expansion or have advanced their own replacement solutions, and many are facing serious challenges." Major targets: Govs. Rick Scott of Florida, Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania & Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

That Scott Walker campaign aide who urged Walker's followers to give to his campaign rather than give Christmas presents to their children? Walker fired her. But not for the Scrooge stuff. Instead, for anti-Hispanic tweets she sent a couple of years ago. As Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, "For the second time in less than four months, Gov. Scott Walker has fired an aide for making demeaning comments about Hispanics on social media."

Senate Race

Family Values. Margaret Hartmann of New York: Dick Cheney was "surprised" his daughter Mary & her wife Heather Poe "launched an attack against Liz" -- who's carpetbagging a run for the U.S. Senate -- on Facebook & said the disagreement should have been dealt with "within the family." "Cheney doesn't care if Liz was 'looking at' Mary, pulled her hair, or declared on a national news program that her marriage shouldn't be legal -- he will not tolerate fighting in this family."

Local News

Nathan Bomey, et al., of the Detroit Free Press: "The city of Detroit today officially became the largest municipality in U.S. history to enter Chapter 9 bankruptcy after U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes declared it met the specific legal criteria required to receive protection from its creditors. The landmark ruling ends more than four months of uncertainty over the fate of the case and sets the stage for a fierce clash over how to slash an estimated $18 billion in debt and long-term liabilities that have hampered Detroit from attacking pervasive blight and violent crime."

Ray Long & Monique Garcia of the Chicago Tribune: "The Illinois General Assembly today narrowly approved a major overhaul of the state government worker pension system following hours of debate on the controversial plan strongly opposed by employee unions. The House voted 62-53 to approve a measure that aims to wipe out a worst-in-the-nation $100 billion pension debt by reducing and skipping cost-of-living increases, requiring workers to retire later and creating a 401(k) option for a limited number of employees. The measure needed a minimum of 60 votes to pass the House.... Moments earlier, the Senate voted for the measure 30-24. The bill needed at least 30 votes.... The measure now goes to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who has said he'll sign it. The vote is a major victory for Quinn as he heads into a re-election bid next year."

Mike Deak of the Asbury Park (New Jersey) Press: "A waitress who alleged that one of her customers wrote an anti-gay message on a receipt has been suspended from her job pending the completion of an investigation into the incident. On Friday, Gallop Asian Bistro posted on its Facebook page that waitress Dayna Morales 'is currently not on our employee schedule while (we) are still working to complete our investigation.' ... On Monday, WNBC reported that Morales had been discharged dishonorably from the Marines." ...

... Last week Fox "News" published a piece detailing claims by acquaintances of Morales that suggest she is a serial liar who has made various grandiose claims about her military experience that are untrue.

News Ledes

New York Times: Connecticut officials released audio of the 911 calls re: the Sandy Hook killings. "The Hartford Courant has excerpts of the audio here. Partial transcripts are here.

New York Times: "Chinese leaders pushed back at visiting Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Wednesday over what they assert is their right to control a wide swath of airspace in the bitterly contested East China Sea. But the Chinese also indicated they had not decided how aggressively to enforce their so-called air defense identification zone, which has ignited tensions with Japan."

New York Times: Hassane Laqees, "a major player in the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah from its inception three decades ago to its current intervention in Syria's civil war," was shot dead in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday. "Over the years, he survived several assassination attempts."

Bloomberg News: "Companies boosted payrolls in November by the most in a year, a sign that U.S. employers were optimistic about demand after the end of a government shutdown a month earlier, a private report based on payrolls showed today. The 215,000 increase in employment exceeded the most optimistic forecast in a Bloomberg survey and followed a revised 184,000 gain in October that was larger than initially estimated...."

Monday
Dec022013

The Commentariat -- Dec. 3, 2013

By Brian McFadden, via Daily Kos. CLICK TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.

NEW. George Packer of the New Yorker: "... while no big-box executive can risk being seen by shareholders to be openly taking the side of the lowest-paid employees, there is a hardheaded argument to be made for doing so: the company's revenues depend on higher hourly wages. While no one imagines that Republicans would allow the minimum-wage bill to pass the House of Representatives, corporate executives are paid to be ruthlessly practical. America is still waiting for the first retail C.E.O. to see what's in front of his nose."

The Drones Are Coming. And they'll deliver your package in half-an-hour. Matt Yglesias explains. ...

... OR, as Paul Waldman of the American Prospect put it, "... in a 14-minute ad for Amazon that was cleverly staged as a report on 60 Minutes ('If you can do this with all these products, what else can you do?' gushed Charlie Rose on the floor of a[n Amazon] fulfillment center. 'You guys can organize the world!'), the company revealed the future of package delivery: drones.... Rose, showing his keen journalistic skills, saw the drones and said, 'Wow.'" ...

... When science fiction edges up to reality:

... In Politico, Kevin Robillard & Alex Byers (among other reporters & pundits) point out some obstacles to Amazon's plan to bring you Toothpaste-in-a-Drone: "Washington regulators, state lawmakers and privacy activists have a warning for Jeff Bezos's army of flying robots: Not so fast." ...

... James Ball of the Guardian: "Jeff Bezos's 'plan' for drone deliveries is little more than a publicity stunt – timed for the biggest online shopping day of the year." ...

... Fox "News": "A Senate committee is planning to hold a hearing to discuss the potential impact of integrating drones into civilian life.... A spokeswoman for Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., confirmed to Fox News the hearing is scheduled for 2014, and said it was planned before Amazon unveiled its so-called 'Octocopters' Sunday night."

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court on Monday declined to get involved in state efforts to force online retailers such as Amazon.com to collect sales tax from customers even in places where the companies do not have a physical presence. The issue -- ending what for many Americans is tax-free online shopping -- is one of the most important in modern retailing. Traditional brick-and-mortar businesses say the online retailers receive an unfair advantage by not collecting sales tax in some areas."

Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post explores what the growth of Roman Catholic hospitals means to reproductive health. Kliff highlights a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of Tamesha Means, a pregnant woman who received inadequate care at a Roman Catholic hospital when she presented in painful labor at 18 weeks. "The lawsuit comes in the midst of a wave of high-profile mergers between Catholic hospitals and secular systems. The partnerships have raised questions about how care will be delivered at institutions guided by religious directives, particularly in rural areas ... where patients have little choice of where to be seen."

Reset. Justin Sink of the Hill: "President Obama will hold an event Tuesday touting the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, as the White House looks to reset public perception of the embattled healthcare law following two months of repairs to the glitchy ObamaCare website." ...

... Amy Goldstein & Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: Healthcare.gov "errors cumulatively have affected roughly one-third of the people who have signed up for health plans since Oct. 1, according to two government and health-care industry officials. The White House disputed the figure but declined to provide its own. The mistakes include failure to notify insurers about new customers, duplicate enrollments or cancellation notices for the same person, incorrect information about family members, and mistakes involving federal subsidies." ...

... Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times: " TheObama administration's overhauled healthcare website got off to a bumpy relaunch Monday as a rush of consumers caused an uptick in errors and forced the administration to put thousands of shoppers on the HealthCare.gov site on hold." ...

... Kate Pickert of Time: "Health-insurance-enrollment counselors in several large states said on Monday that the problem-plagued HealthCare.gov was operating reasonably well for the first time since its Oct. 1 launch, with clients able to use the site with relative ease throughout the day. Despite marked improvement in the website's consumer functions, it is unclear what back-end problems remain and if the millions of Americans expected to purchase plans through the new insurance marketplace will be able to do so in time to have coverage that begins on Jan. 1." ...

... Yves Smith, always a tough critic, makes some valid -- & dismaying -- points in her review of Stolberg-Shear New York Times story, linked here December 1, that got "inside the race to rescue a healthcare site": "... it reveals Obama to have been recklessly indifferent about the execution of what was billed as his signature policy initiative. One can only imagine how inattentive he is to other matters you'd expect him to take seriously." ...

... Dana Milbank: "... the real gauge of HealthCare.gov's improvement was Republicans' response -- or lack thereof. When the House returned from Thanksgiving recess on Monday afternoon, the GOP speakers on the floor essentially ignored the Web site, instead returning to their earlier denunciations of Obamacare overall and President Obama in general." ...

... "Benghazification Begins." Paul Krugman: "... the [Healthcare.gov] crisis is over -- for Obama and the Democrats. It's just beginning for the Republicans, who won't be able to let go of the notion that it's a criminal scandal, and that mobs with pitchforks will march on the White House if only they can find the right words. They'll try everything. They'll hold endless hearings; they'll get the usual suspects to publish many op-eds. Maybe they'll get 60 Minutes to do a report that has to be retracted." ...

Let's See if Krugman Could Be Right

... Nullification, Ctd. Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times: "... a fresh wave of legal challenges to the [ACA] is playing out in courtrooms as conservative critics -- joined by their Republican allies on Capitol Hill -- make the case that Mr. Obama has overstepped his authority in applying it." ...

... Dylan Scott of TPM: "House Oversight Chair Darrell Issa (R-CA) sent letters Wednesday to 15 insurance companies demanding copies of their correspondence with the Obama administration in an effort to determine if the administration knew in advance that people could lose access to their doctors or have their existing health insurance policies canceled under Obamacare." ...

... Karoli of Crooks & Liars: "In the past two weeks, [California] GOP Assembly members have sent mailings out on what appears to be the state's dime to their constituents about health insurance. Only, they don't direct those people to CoveredCA.com to sign up. Instead, they send them to their own astroturf version at the URL CoveringHealthCareCA.com. On their version, there are links to negative articles and twisted messages intended to sour people on signing up for health insurance before they ever land at the official health exchange site." CW: Click on the link. The GOP's fake site surely will fool a lot of people. It's really a horrible disservice to Californians. California's Insurance Commissioner should shut it down.

Joe McCarthy, Ted Cruz. Or vice-versa.... Sahil Kapur of TPM: The right's obsession with ObamaCare is a bizarre phenomenon that smacks of McCarthyism, but is worse in that Republicans will decimate any fellow Republicans whom they can accuse of acting in any way that does not lead to the obliteration of the ACA. ...

... Repeal, Don't Fix. Alex Roarty of the National Journal: "Democrats need to salvage what benefit they can from Obamacare. And so far, Republicans are lending them a helping hand." ...

... The Do-Nothing Congress -- It's a Strategy. Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Many Republicans believe they are getting such good traction from their attacks on President Obama's stumbling health care law that they feel less compelled to produce results. Any public fight over legislative compromises could take away from the focus Republicans have kept on the health care law." Weisman ticks off some of the things Congress must do to avert various calamities, yet may let slide so as not to distract from demagoguing ObamaCare. ...

... Charles Pierce is dead-right about this: "... it would be a capital mistake to believe that, one day, just because the law is in place and is working for people, that it then would be beyond political peril. Among the people seeking to destroy it, the fact that it was working would be the most serious indictment against it. In fact, the better it works, the more pernicious it is, and the more urgent the task of its destruction becomes. The happier They are, the weaker America becomes. The healthier They are, the less free we are. Forever and ever, amen." Read the whole post ...

     ... CW: If you think Pierce is just a cockeyed pessimist, bear this in mind: Social Security has been around for three-quarters of a century, & Republicans are still trying to kill it, whether by cutting benefits, by jiggering with the cost-of-living calculation, by raising the eligibility age, by "privatizing" it or by any other means they can think of -- even tho half their base are SS beneficiaries & SS is the most popular government program in the U.S.

... FINALLY, Jon Stewart explains why government can't do anything right and the private sector is fantabulous:


Mark Landler & Martin Fackler of the New York Times: "With Japan locked in a tense standoff with China over disputed airspace, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. arrived [in Tokyo] late Monday for a weeklong visit to Asia intended to reassure a close ally and demand answers from a potential adversary."

The U.S. -- It's Not Lake Wobegon Anymore. Daniel Arkin of NBC News: "Students in the United States made scant headway on recent global achievement exams and slipped deeper in the international rankings amid fast-growing competition abroad, according to test results released Tuesday. American teens scored below the international average in math and roughly average in science and reading, compared against dozens of other countries that participated in the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which was administered last fall."

Gubernatorial Race

Gov. Scrooge Walker (RTP-Wisc.). Scott Keyes of Think Progress: "Last week, Walker's campaign sent an email encouraging supporters not to buy [Christmas] gifts for their children and to use that money instead to support his reelection effort."

Local News

Nicole Flatow of Think Progress: "... Republican lawmakers and the National Rifle Association are exploiting [the case of Marissa Alexander (see story)] to advance a Florida bill that would explicitly expand broad Stand Your Ground-like immunity to those who brandish or fire guns in self-defense. Last month, a Florida House committee overwhelming rejected a bill to repeal the state's Stand Your Ground law, and supported passage of the warning shot legislation instead. The bill has now been introduced in the Senate."

A Result of National Gun Obsession. Nicole Flatow: "A 72-year-old who suffered from Alzheimer's was shot dead after wandering onto a [Georgia] man's property early Wednesday morning, ringing the doorbell and turning the door handle. After Joe Hendrix's fiancé called 911 to report a possible intruder, Hendrix went outside to take matters into his own hands, and fired four shots at a silhouette in his yard, killing Ronald Westbrook." CW: I do not understand the workings of a mind that would shoot at a shadow who could have been, say, an elderly Alzheimer's victim, a family member, a drunken neighbor who went to the wrong house, a harmless person in distress, etc. I get being frightened by a stranger in the dark; I don't get being so scared you shoot to kill while the cops are en route.

David Edwards of the Raw Story has the most comprehensive version of the arrest of three teens in Rochester, New York, whose "crime" was waiting for a school bus.

News Ledes

New York Times: "As investigators of the fatal Metro-North Railroad train derailment said they had found no apparent problems with the train's brakes or other equipment, a union official said on Tuesday that the engineer briefly nodded off before the accident."

AP: "Entombed at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in an upended tugboat for three days, Harrison Odjegba Okene begged God for a miracle. The Nigerian cook survived by breathing an ever-dwindling supply of oxygen in an air pocket. A video of Okene's rescue in May ... that was posted on the Internet more than six months later has gone viral this week. The other 11 seaman aboard the Jascon 4 died." The AP video is here.

KSL Salt Lake City: "Homeland Security agents in Salt Lake City helped shut down more than 700 domains that were hawking counterfeit products Monday. The domain names were part of scams to lure customers into buying counterfeit products during the holiday shopping surge."

Sunday
Dec012013

The Commentariat -- Dec. 2, 2013

Paul Krugman: "Despite the lingering effects of the financial crisis, America is a much richer country than it was 40 years ago. But the inflation-adjusted wages of nonsupervisory workers in retail trade -- who weren't particularly well paid to begin with — have fallen almost 30 percent since 1973.... We can preserve and expand food stamps, not slash the program the way Republicans want. We can make health reform work, despite right-wing efforts to undermine the program. And we can raise the minimum wage." ...

... Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times: "Seeking to increase pressure on McDonald's, Wendy's and other fast-food restaurants, organizers of a movement demanding a $15-an-hour wage for fast-food workers say they will sponsor one-day strikes in 100 cities on Thursday and protest activities in 100 additional cities." CW: Wendy's is the only major fast-food chain that refuses to sign onto a program that ensures it purchases tomatoes only from ethical suppliers & that pays farm workers an extra penny a pound.

Joseph Tanfani of the Los Angeles Times: "... technology failures have become the rule in the federal government, not the exception. Websites crash, attempts to modernize systems founder and military systems costing hundreds of millions are abandoned before ever being used. The Obama administration has tried to confront the problem, appointing top technology officers who scrapped and consolidated some flagging projects and pushed for more agile procedures. But the reforms have been modest.... The government's problems, involving taxpayer money, are pervasive and add up to billions in waste. Washington will spend more than $76 billion this year on information technology. A federal report in January found that 700 projects, accounting for $12.5 billion, were in trouble." ...

... Robert Pear & Reed Abelson of the New York Times: "Weeks of frantic technical work appear to have made the government's health care website easier for consumers to use. But that does not mean everyone who signs up for insurance can enroll in a health plan. The problem is that so-called back end systems, which are supposed to deliver consumer information to insurers, still have not been fixed. And with coverage for many people scheduled to begin in just 30 days, insurers are worried the repairs may not be completed in time." ...

... Washington Post reporters Sandhya Somashekhar & Lena Sun have expanded on the report by Sun I linked yesterday. ...

     ... USA Today Editors counter: " for all the apparent good news, Obama and his signature effort are nowhere near out of the woods." ...

... In a USA Today op-ed, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius writes, "... today's user experience on HealthCare.gov is a dramatic improvement over where it was on Oct. 1. The site is running faster, it's responding quicker and it can handle larger amounts of traffic."

... Garance Franke-Ruta of the Atlantic: "... the Department of Health and Human Services released a report that detailed just how badly the [Healthcare.gov] site was functioning in October and early November. According to the Healthcare.gov Progress and Performance Report, the site was offline more than it was online in at the start of November." ...

... The HHS report on Healthcare.gov is here. ...

... James Surowiecki of the New Yorker looks at how the ACA began lowering healthcare costs -- even before it was enacted -- & is likely to continue to do so. He cites studies that illuminate reasons for cost reductions. ...

... Amie Parnes & Justin Sink of the Hill: "Former administration officials and Democratic operatives say President Obama is ill-served by his current White House staff and must reboot his second term team following the disastrous ObamaCare rollout. First-term insiders argue the White House's weakness was defined by a lack of preparedness, messaging blunders and failure to keep the president informed." Includes quotes from former staffers wearing masks while skewering current officials with long knives. CW: I understand the occasional necessity for anonymity, but this was not one of those occasions. If you're going to diss a public figure by name, have the guts to reveal your own name. I would not have published the anonymous digs.

Joan Walsh of Salon: "... despite the RNC autopsy that kicked off 2013, looking at ways to make sure it wasn't merely the party of 'stuffy old men,' the GOP apparently learned nothing from its 2012 drubbing.... It may turn out that the ACA troubles were a brilliant Democratic plot to distract Republicans from their demographic terminal illness, and convince them that the Kill Obamacare playbook is all they need for 2014. Republicans have made absolutely zero progress in reaching out to any of the demographic groups -- women, young people or Latinos...."

Michael Lind of Salon: The right is united behind a single economic vision based on libertarianism. The left adheres to three distinct economic philosophies. "Universal policies for all Americans as a matter of right should be the progressive agenda of our time. The sooner the center-left abandons well-intentioned but anachronistic strategies and rallies behind contemporary economic-rights progressivism, the sooner the battle for the future of America can be taken successfully to the libertarian right."

Karen DeYoung & Joby Warrick of the Washington Post: "A bipartisan juggernaut of senior senators is spending the remaining week of the Thanksgiving recess forging agreement on a new sanctions bill [against Iran] that the senators hope to pass before breaking again for Christmas. The administration believes the legislation could scuttle the interim nuclear agreement reached with Iran on Nov. 23 and derail upcoming negotiations on a permanent deal -- scheduled for completion in six months -- to ensure that Iran will never be able to build a nuclear weapon."

Manu Raju & Burgess Everett of Politico: Newly-installed Sen. Cory Booker is eschewing his well-known self-promoting lifestyle to fit into his role as the Junior Senator from New Jersey (D).

Kathleen Geier of the Washington Monthly has a superb takedown of Ross Douthat's effort (linked here yesterday) to bring Pope Francis's critique of capitalism into the conservative fold. Clearly, Douthat has learned from David Brooks how to make unsupported claims by linking to bull in hopes the busy reader will think "link = proof". Geier goes to the linked "proofs." ...

... Kieran Healy of Crooked Timber: "... here is a quiz to see whether you can distinguish statements by Pope Francis from statements by Karl Marx.... I sort of hope it will be picked up, stripped of this introductory paragraph, and circulated as evidence that the Pope and Marx agree on pretty much everything."

Senatorial Races

James Hohmann of Politico: The GOP is targeting blue & purple states in hopes of taking over the Senate.

James Pindell of WMUR Manchester: "Former New Hampshire Republican senator Bob Smith said he has changed his mind and will try to defeat Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen for his old seat next year.... Smith is the third Republican to announce a bid to run against Shaheen. Former state Sen. Jim Rubens, R-Hanover, and conservative activist Karen Testerman, R-Franklin, are already in the race, but Republicans fear they might be weak challengers and have been looking for someone else. For the past month that 'someone else' had been former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, who appeared to be making moves to enter the race. He is selling his Bar State home to live in New Hampshire full time. In a smaller move, he even changed his Twitter handle to no longer have 'MA' in it." CW: I think that's "Bay State," not "Bar State." According to this site, North Dakota is the "Bar State," with more bars per capita than any other U.S. state, with Montana a close second. ...

... Uh-oh. Sen. McDreamy is about to make a comeback. Do you know which of these people is Martha Coakley & which is Jeanne Shaheen? Yeah, the people of New Hampshire probably don't know either. But I'll bet they recognize Sen. McDreamy:

News Ledes

New York Times: "The Metro-North Railroad train that derailed on Sunday, killing four people and injuring dozens more,

New York Times: "Even as thousands of protesters occupied Independence Square, blockaded the Cabinet Ministry and continued to demand his resignation, President Viktor F. Yanukovich of Ukraine on Monday defended his refusal to sign accords with the European Union, said he was on the verge of securing lower gas prices from Russia, and urged opposition politicians to wait for presidential elections in 2015 to challenge him."